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Adventures in Faith

ORIGINS AND CULTURE

Monday, December 18, 2017

We are quickly approaching Christmas.  For centuries December 25th has been celebrated as the birth of Jesus.  Bible students know that Matthew through Acts do not mention Jesus’ birth being celebrated.  Early Christian writers like Irenaeus (c.130 – 20), Tertullian (c.160 – 225), and Origin of Alexandria (c.165 – 264) never mentioned a birthday celebration.  Most people never ask nor understand why this information isn’t mentioned.  According to the first century historian, Josephus, Jews did not have special birthday celebrations.  They believed it was contrary to the Law of Moses.  It was also thought that celebrating birthdays and anniversaries was following “pagan practices”! Until the fourth century, Christians did not observe birthdays due to the belief that all babies were born into sin.  Are we engaged in such activities today by observing birthdays and anniversaries?

Biblical writers do speak of the time associated with Jesus’ death.   In fact, Paul refers to Jesus as “our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).  They also mention Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke.  It is not until the mid-second century that an Egyptian writer mentions Jesus’ birth.  Clement of Alexandria mentions several dates that were suggested for the Lord’s birth, but none of them were December 25th.  He gives March 21, April 21, and May 20.  By the fourth century the western church had decided on December 25th as his birth and the eastern church January 6th.  Augustine of Hippo mentions a group of Christians keeping the December 25th date in 400.  It is doubtful that in setting those dates that they observed any of them as we do the 25th.

There are two main theories as to why December 25th became the birthday of Jesus.  The most popular one suggested that pagans worshiped their false deities on that day.  To influence converted pagans, that date was made Jesus birthday, so they could continue their worship, but give honor to the Lord rather than their false gods.  Others negate this by showing that earlier Christians celebrated that date before the pagan practices were known.  So, whose theory is credible?

Another theory pointed out that Jesus conception took place on the same day as his death on the cross.  Nine months later his birth would have been on December 25th.  However, when proving the exact “how” December 25th became Christmas, we do not have a viable answer.  Theories are just that, nothing more!

Because some accept the first theory as truth, they believe it is sinful to observe the date due to its pagan origins.  They believe that if it originated from pagan roots, to practice such gives honor to that source and is sinful!    Others enjoy and practice it as a cultural celebration rather than a religious one.  Some are thankful that people throughout the world celebrate it, because it points to the Savior despite some misconceptions being attached.

If borrowing a practice from a questionable source is sinful, then we are in a heap of trouble!  The days of the week, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are etched from pagan beliefs.  The names of the months January, February, March, and June also have their pagan origin.   When we mention an event being on Sunday, are we honoring the pagan deity it is named after?  When we look forward to a vacation in June, are we glorifying the god from which it gets its name?  There may be some people who honor those gods.  What they do doesn’t associate us with them in their recognition or practice.  Just because we have a green pseudo tree with decorations doesn’t mean we accept the views of those who made it part of their pagan ritual.  I have no personal knowledge of anyone who puts a gift under that tree as worship to a tree god.  Just because we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries doesn’t mean we are pagans nor that we promote such.

When Jesus established his memorial supper, he did so during the Passover meal.  Years before his birth, four cups of wine were added to that feast by man.  Jesus accepted that manmade innovation and Luke tells us about the third and fourth cups without any guilt over their origin.  Jesus borrowed one of those added cups and included it in his supper.  Each participant brought his own cup for that occasion.  A vessel containing wine was used to replenish each of the four times participants needed to consume its content.  When we partake, are we engaged in the Passover’s fourth cup since that is its origin?  Since the cups were added by man, are we supporting unscriptural additions by drinking the fruit of the vine from one of those cups?  If we are practicing paganism by enjoying Christmas, why aren’t we guilty of engaging in keeping Moses’ Law by using the Passover’s unleavened bread and fourth cup?  That is their origin.  Why are we and Jesus not guilty of adding manmade doctrines by accepting the four cups introduced by man rather than God?

Some believe we “must practice only those things which are specifically mentioned in the Bible.”  That rule itself, is not expressed per se in scripture.  Those who espouse it are seldom consistent followers.  The divisions it has caused is heartbreaking.

According to the Bible, when Gentiles were added to the saved, two different styles developed.  Jewish Christians continued to keep the Law of Moses with its ramifications.  The Gentile church was only obligated to abstain from meat sacrificed to an idol, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality (Acts 15:29).  Since the Roman church had a mixed membership, Paul wrote to settle several differences.  One concerned the principle of “one day” over “every day” (Romans 14:5).   His questions to them may also be addressed to us, “Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?” (Romans 14:10).

My convictions?  On the 25th?  Merry Christmas!  On January 1st?  Happy New Year!  On September 16th?  I celebrate my birthday!  On February 6th?  We celebrate our anniversary!  Pagan origins?  That is not my reason for celebrating each.  By the way, the wedding ring has a pagan origin too!  Do you wear one?  If so, why?  Christian wedding ceremonies and marriage licenses are man made rather than divinely commanded!  Consistency is a hard item to possess, much less to maintain!

WHO MADE YOU JUDGE?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

An Israelite asked Moses, “Who made you . . . judge?”  (Exodus 2:14).  Moses thought he was doing the right thing by stopping the slave master.  Surely the Israelites would appreciate his help?  Would he not be like a savior to them?  Would he not only plead their cause, but defend their rights?  So, why is this man questioning Moses?  He is questioning Moses’ right to judge.  God hasn’t yet appeared to Moses.  This is something he decided to do.  If we stand up for what is right, yet God is absent, how virtuous is our righteousness?

Peter was told “three times” by God to “eat,” but refused (Acts 10:9-18).  He had to take a 36-mile (58 kilometer) journey before he understood God’s vision and command (Acts 10:33-34).  Was he guilty of sin each time he refused to eat?  He was “right,” according to the Law of Moses, by refusing to eat the “unclean.”  He was wrong to refuse, since he was no longer bound by that law, and God was giving him a direct order!  He was right, but wrong!  His religious culture demanded a “No” answer from him.  His culture was stronger than God’s word!  Have you ever been in a similar situation?  Since he refused to obey three direct orders from God, would you consider anyone following his example to need repentance and restoration?  What is your judgment based upon?  Is it your culture, your religious ideology, your comfort zone, or God’s word?

Peter had sixteen hundred years of proof behind him that no Jew should ever eat unclean food.  Why would God command him to eat that which was unlawful?  Perhaps it was a test to see if he would disobey the Law of Moses?  So, he said, “No” to God to prove his faithfulness!  Yet, he was wrong.  He was just as wrong as some that later insisted that Gentiles must be circumcised before they were saved (Acts 15:1,5).  We think they were wrong, but as Christian Pharisees, they were “zealous for the Law” and were obedience to it.  They were circumcised on the eighth day after their birth, just like Jesus!  Why should a Gentile not submit to circumcision as they and Jesus had?  Do Gentiles not want to be under God’s covenant?  Do they not want to follow Jesus’ example?  What is your judgment based upon?  Is it your culture, your religious ideology, your comfort zone, or God’s word?

Acts 15 is the only time that anyone questioned another’s baptism.  However, this is after the Gentiles had been immersed.  Did Peter or anyone query candidates before immersion?  Some churches will vote on whether to accept an individual into their membership prior to baptism.  We believe that practice is not described in scripture.  Yet, if baptism comes prior to God’s adding one to the saved, and we refuse to immerse that candidate, isn’t that decision in the same category?  What is your judgment based upon?

About three thousand “gladly receive his word” and “were baptized(Acts 2:41).  Did Peter and the others question anyone before they agreed to immerse them?  If they did, is that not the same as voting on folks before baptizing them?  Isn’t that making man the one that determines who will or will not be added to the saved?  What is your judgment based upon?  Is it based upon your culture, your religious ideology, your comfort zone, or God’s word?

Except for elders and deacons, some Jews had more than one wife.  Is there any evidence that one was told to give up the last wife before he could be immersed (1 Timothy 3:2, 12)?  Were the Pharisees, who wished to be immersed, questioned and told they must rid themselves of their party membership before immersion (Acts 15:5)?  Before Philemon could be baptized, was his slave ownership questioned?  Was he told he must free all his slaves before receiving immersion?  Was baptism withheld from an idol worshiper until he proved he had destroyed all his images and no longer attended their temple events?  Before he was immersed, was he questioned as to whether he though idols were realities (1 Corinthians 8:1-18)?   If that was the case, couldn’t we broaden that spectrum and require every candidate to make sure he knew the whole truth before immersion?  Shouldn’t he be given an oral exam to see if he knows enough of the Bible to be a genuine member of the body of Christ?  If that is the right path to follow, what individual would be the one to set the standard for all candidates?  Which individuals would be allowed to pass before they deserved the right to be immersed?  God knows their heart.  If their heart is not right, we just get them wet.  What if it is right and we refuse?  What is your judgment based upon?

Perhaps the question asked by that Israelite in Moses’ day, needs to be asked in ours.  “Who made you the judge?”

WHY DON’T YOU GROW UP?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Did your parents ever chastise you by saying, with a tone, “Why don’t you grow up?” or “Why don’t you act your age?”?  Sometimes you were just being a kid and you weren’t sure what your parents wanted you to do.  You may have understood that they were giving you words of wisdom, you just didn’t have the wisdom to know what it was!  Even having a razor strap brushing your derriere didn’t elevate your IQ.

I think my parents were teaching me how to correct my children once I grew up, married, and had some.  It was the biblical way!  Did your parents ever say, prior to using the belt, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you”?  I always thought, as the licks were in progress, “How is this hurting you, since I’m the one feeling the licks?”  Did your correcting parents ever say, “I’m doing this because I love you!”?  With each red mark from the switch, I was thanking God that my mom or grandmother didn’t hate me”!  There certainly wasn’t much grace back then.  Like a Saturday night bath, a whipping was something you were going to get whether you thought you needed it or not!  My excuses weren’t accepted.  My reasoning didn’t make the grade.  If anyone needed grace, it was me.  I needed it back then and I still do today!  Don’t you?

Peter states, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby(1 Peter 2:2 (KJV).  How long after birth before a child exchanges his diaper for a two-piece suit?  How long before he no longer needs a high chair?  Some believe once a person rises from the waters of baptism, he should score 100% on all facets of life.  Yet, no one does.  Diapers must be changed often.  Growth must happen.  However, overnight adulthood is unrealistic.  Thirty-four years after Acts 2, the Hebrew writer stated, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” (Hebrews 5:12 (KJV).  After thirty-four years, some were still bottle fed!  No one has perfect knowledge and unless we are deceived, we recognize our knowledge of God’s word needs continual improvement.  Most improve at different rates.

No one in his right mind whips a child when he dirties his diaper.  No one threatens that child, with each smelly napkin, that if there is a next time, he will be disowned and left on someone’s front porch.  It takes time to mature or grow up.  Dirty diapers are exchanged for trouble at school, or low grades, or negligent behavior.  Most boys my generation, and several that followed, are familiar with the school paddle?  We also knew when we got home, the oak tree’s switches would become our teacher!  But, even though we did not understand our parent’s “love,” they did not leave us on someone’s front porch.

The Hebrew writer was correcting and encouraging God’s children.  They had their problems.  Some needed to leave babyhood and act adult like.  They needed to remember some things.  Mother used to tell me, “I think you would forget your head if it wasn’t screwed on.”  Yet, with all their problems God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.(Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV).  God never searches for a front porch.

We are all in a growing process.  We all make mistakes.  One purpose of our gathering together is to help and encourage each other.  We often waste that time by focusing on practices no older than a few centuries, rather than doing what was commanded in the first one.  The devil is still alive and active.  He works to interrupt our thinking with deception.  He wants us to beat up someone, either yourself or others.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he spoke of the assemblies being used to edify or build each member up (1 Corinthians 14:5, 12, 26).  When he wrote the Ephesians about the purpose of different works, he told their purpose (Ephesians 4:11-12).  When writing to the assemblies of the Ephesians and Colossians, he stated, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord(Ephesians 5:19 (NKJV).  He told the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16 (NKJV).  Notice that Paul starts with “speaking to one another” and “teaching and admonishing one another” before ending with “to the Lord”!  If an assembly leaves off the beginning, it will never get “to the Lord.”

God works through us as we assemble to build one another up.  We’re just a bunch of sinners who are grateful for His love, grace, and forgiveness.  We come together, to share with one another what He has poured out on us!  May God strengthen us as we help one another to move forward in our growth!

DO YOU DOUBT?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

In our religious culture, one does not pray in anger to God, putting Him in His place because of something one thinks He is responsible for.   I know some do when in the valley of despair, but most feel that such actions border on blasphemy!  Since most do not fully understand what the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is, fear stops such prayers from being offered.  Most do not want to cross that invisible line.

Yet, in reading the Old Testament, especially Psalms, the prayers of David seem to teeter on that line, if not cross it!  Remarks usually made concerning that crossing is, “We don’t pray like that today.”  No one does unless his life has been visited by some tragedy that violently pulls life’s rug out from under him.  Such prayers are viewed as being related to doubt or disbelief.  Any doubt on the part of a Christian is viewed as an indicator of a weak or dying faith.  But, is that perception valid?

According to the Old Testament, David is not portrayed in that way, even in his darkest hour.  The most outstanding sin of David, according to scripture, is with Bathsheba.  Yet, the rest of his sins are not exposed as is that specific one.  His sin of numbering Israel doesn’t receive first page exposure like the following.

David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5).

In the New Testament, Paul states,

He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13:22).

When Saul, as well as David’s son, Absalom, was attempting to kill him, David’s cry to heaven was, “God, where are you?”  When reading some of David’s psalms one is tempted to question his lack of faith.  Yet, those times of “faltering” are not hinted at in either 1 Kings 15:5 or Acts 13:22.  If I am in that same valley which David trod, will God put me in an identical category as He did David, who “had not turned aside from anything that He (God) had commanded him all the days of his life” and “a man after My own heart”?

Sometimes our religious culture is an expert in ignoring what is revealed in holy writ.  A cousin of Jesus sent word to him asking, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:20).  Didn’t John remember, after immersing Jesus, that a voice from heaven announced, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)?  Did he not tell his disciples, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)?  I find it strange that we refer to the apostle Thomas as “doubting Thomas,” but we don’t attach that epitaph to cousin John!  Why?

In the garden while praying, Jesus petitioned the Father with, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39).  In Hebrews the writer tells us that Jesus stated, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:9).  If Jesus knew what was going to happen and what he was supposed to do, why say “if”?  Despite knowing the truth about something, flesh can introduce that “if” in our life.  Such is not the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

A preacher lost his family when they were violently taken from him by an individual they had been helping.  When news of their deaths reached him, that “if” tore him apart.  Expressions of condolence with any mention of “God” were successful in deepening his sadness and adding to his grief.  Preaching the good news died in the blood of his loved ones.  If a prayer was offered, it would not contain “Thank you.”  Church and all it trappings became meaningless.  The foremost question that grabbed every thought was, “Why?”  Grief challenges our faith.  It offers two paths.  One goes the same direction taken by those mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:25-29.  The other is to an even stronger faith than possessed prior to the tragedy.  That preacher did take the path toward a stronger faith once he had passed through his valley.

Life contains its disappointments.  For some there are more and higher hurdles to jump than experienced by others.  We don’t always have an answer for our “Why.”  Yet, it is not the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to create the “Why” nor the “if.”  When we get through that part of our life, we realize that our strength comes in leaning upon God despite life’s battles.  Paul stopped at prayer number three.  Some of us have larger numbers.  Hopefully, regardless of the number, we will join in with Paul by accepting God’s answer, “No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.”  Paul’s reply was, “Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  May his reply also be ours!

WHAT IF?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Have you ever pitched a coin into what was known as “a wishing well”?  Some will throw away a nickel, dime, or quarter to make a wish, just for the fun of it.  Some do it “just in case” it might come true!  There may be a few believers who do it, expecting some elf to grant it.  Those individuals are usually in the Santa Clause age!

“What if” is closely related to the wishing well.  Have you ever been a “What if” person?  What if I’d been born in 1849 and traveled West?  What if I’d been born to wealthy parents?  What if I had gone to Auburn rather than the University of Alabama?  What if I had gone to a trade school rather than a college or university?  You can “What if” yourself into a legion of situations, but you cannot turn back the hands of time.

There are some who are waiting on an inventor to develop a time machine.   They would like to go back to the first century to see, hear, and speak with Jesus.  They would like to go back to Luke’s chapter two and hear Peter preach that first good news sermon.  They would like to return to that event when Paul preached on Mars Hill.  Since we’ve introduced it, “What if” they traveled back in time but were trapped there for an extended period?

Many have a habit of reading our culture and practices into the New Testament rather than understand first century culture.  First, you would not be capable of understanding Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin.   No one there would know English!  Your speech would place you in the “intoxicated” category (Acts 2:13).  You would not be able to understand anyone.  Second, the money in your pocket, whether it was a single ten, or a thousand dollars, would be colorful pieces of unknown material!  Third, Cracker Barrel, McDonald’s, nor Krispy Cream would be present.  Even if they did exist, you could not order due to the language barrier and being void of Roman or Palestinian money!  Fourth, your clothes would attract attention because of their difference.  Some Roman soldier could be insulted by your refusal to respond to his inquiry in one of the four spoken languages.  He would not handcuff nor read you your Miranda Rights.  You probably would find yourself lying on the ground because he hit you with his fist or the side of his sword.  If arrested and thrown in jail, you will not have access to a lawyer.  You will not be graced with a bunk bed with pillow and covers, nor will you be fed three times each day.  In fact you may lose several pounds due to prison conditions.  The other prisoners may take advantage of you since you are “strange.”  Hopefully, your wrist will become acclimated to the chains decorating your arms.

Since you weren’t arrested for heresy or anarchy, you will probably be sold at the local slave market.  If you are fortunate you may be bought by a good Jew!  This may present an opportunity for you to see Jesus and the apostles from a distance.  If your owner’s name is Jairus and his daughter hasn’t died yet, you may see Jesus “close up” when that event happens (Matthew 9:18; Mark 5:22-23; Luke 8:42).   Since you are ignorant of the four languages, you will not be able to communicate with your master, much less Jesus.  Will Jesus, a Northern Palestinian Jew, understand you or speak to you so you can understand him?  I doubt it.   But, your “What if” has happened.  You have seen Jesus!  Of course, you will have to spend an extended time there as a slave until the time machine brings you home.  The only time clock you will have is the sun.  You may be supplied only one meal each day, but at least you will have a bed, even if it isn’t a Posturepedic one.  You may also have mattress mates called bed bugs!  Besides seeing our Lord, you may have another positive thing to come from this adventure.  If you applied yourself, you could learn Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Latin!

“What if”?  Basically, it is dream of fiction, with you as its author.  If it could happen, there would be pitfalls that might turn it into your worst nightmare.  People don’t like what they can’t understand, and a twenty-first century person suddenly appearing in the first century would be in that category!

It is possible to have a relationship with Jesus and be filled with his Spirit without a time machine.  That relationship is viable without a “What if” or an impossible wish!  We can believe the good news Peter preached on Pentecost, and follow the instruction he gave in Acts 2:14-41.  When we do so, God will add us to Jesus’ body of saved folks, as he added the “about three thousand” (Acts 2:41, 47).  We may not visibly see Jesus as Stephen did in Acts 7:55-56, but we will have him as our Lord, Savior, friend, mediator, and brother!  Rather than “wish upon a star,” why not follow the example of first century folks as they responded to the good news and clothed themselves with Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29)?

ADDED, BUT WHY?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. . .And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41, 47).

Can you imagine 3,000 being added to the saved by Almighty God after hearing their first Christian sermon?  Did God “weed” out anyone “who received his word and were baptized”?  If so, Luke leaves us without that answer!  Someone asked Peter, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (V.37).  Peter gave his answer in verse 38, but like some today, he wasn’t quitting (verse 40a)!  How long his testifying and exhorting extended that lesson is unknown (verse 40b).  Wrist watches were not available, the Baptists and Cracker Barrel did not exist, and a sun dial was not handy!  That first sermon ended with, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  Somewhat different from how sermons end today!  They believed, repented for crucifying God’s Son, and were baptized (verses 23, 41).

Where was the nearest baptistry?  They were not yet invented.  Was it in the Jordan River?  It so, that was 33 kilometers distance (that is 21 miles)!  Since church buses were not in the equation, can you imagine marching 3,000 people twenty-one miles to be immersed?  Did Jerusalem have a public swimming pool or YMCA?  Non-existent.  There were large reservoirs of water used for purposes other than drinking.  A change into baptistry garments is a modern tradition.  Only the preacher being authorized to baptize is another tradition, likely borrowed from the Catholics.  Paul preached, but personally baptized only a few who responded (1 Corinthians 1:14-16).  The first century 120 that were saved did not vote whether the 3,000 should be accepted.  Perhaps the 120 of Acts 1 pitched in and took care of immersing that many people?  Men and women may immerse, but God is the One who adds (Colossians 1:12-13)!  Is man authorized to vote for or against, or question those which God adds?

Was anyone questioned about his marital status prior to baptism?  Polygamy, like owning slaves, was practiced.  Philemon was a slave owner.  Is there any evidence that he or other owners were denied salvation by the Lord?  Is there any scriptural evidence, that before baptism was administered to such owners, they were required to free all their slaves?  The same is true concerning those who had more than one wife at home.  Only those qualifying for the work of an overseer or deacon, were limited to “one.” (1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6).  No evidence is given that a man was required to give up all but the first wife if he wished to be added.  The usual thought on these matters is, “They were grandfathered in.”  Scripture??

If a person was a member of the Pharisee party, they were not told to drop that party affiliation prior to being baptized.  God is the One who added them to the saved!  Some from that party questioned Peter after he went to the house of Cornelius.  There would have been no interrogation if Cornelius had been a circumcised proselyte (Acts 11:1-3)!  That same party came from James, the brother of Jesus, and Peter hypocritically stopped his fellowship with Gentile Christians prior to their arrival (Galatians 2:11-13).  Those same “added” individuals insisted that all Gentile converts be circumcised, according to the Law of Moses, if they wanted to be saved (Acts 15:1-2, 5)!  The irony is that God had “added” the Pharisee Party as well as the Gentiles to the saved!  The Pharisees were not required to give up their party affiliation before being “added,” nor were the Gentiles required to undergo surgery before receiving it!

When Paul wrote to the church of God in Corinth, he was not writing to the unsaved.  He was writing to individuals who had already been added to the saved.  Every single individual that made up that assembly was a saved person.  God Himself had added them (2 Timothy 2:19b)!  When John wrote to Sardis, which the Lord called Adead,@ everyone in it had been added!  No lost individual was on the “church” roll.  This was true in all the other assemblies addressed in Revelation 2 and 3.  Not one assembly is addressed that had an unsaved member!  What about every member in the church at Corinth?  All were saved.  Why?  Because God did the adding and the inspired writer addressed them as the saved!  What about Laodicea?  Saved.  In each case, God is the one who added them.  The Holy Spirit knows who are His people since he dwells in them (1 Corinthians 3:16).  Letters were written to the saved in different locales, not to the unadded.  Church rolls are a more modern tradition, created by men, not God!

Despite the problems in first century fellowships, not one single saved group refused fellowship to a sister called out group (John 17:20-21).  Warnings were given to assemblies, but one did not withdraw from another.  Only individuals were being disciplined.  A few examples are Paul referring to Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:19-20).  One individual in Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:1-11).  Simon was told to repent and did (Acts 8:18-24).  Ananias and Sapphira lied and died in the assembly (Acts 5:1-11).  Some fell away (Hebrews 4-6; 10:25-29).  Paul warned some about preaching another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).  John mentioned Diotrephes (3 John 1:9-10).

Would we question God’s adding if we had lived in the first century?  Would we be offended by God’s way of subtracting from the “added” (Acts 5:1-11)?

SAYINGS?

Monday, November 27, 2017

I often come across sayings that I use on Facebook.  Sometimes a statement may be misunderstood by someone learning English.  Some have a “hook” which must be recognized before the statement is appreciated.  Some may be in the same category as Proverbs 22:6, misunderstood and misapplied.  Where would you classify the following: “Go an entire day without criticizing anyone”?  Have you ever noticed how hard it is to keep your mouth shut?

The comedian, Ken Davis, in his DVD “Under the Influence,” mentions an incident where he was asked something, and he should have kept his mouth shut, but didn’t.  His reason for giving the incorrect statement was, “He asked!”  Some people don’t have to be asked!  It doesn’t matter whether they know all the facts or not, right or wrong, they have the solution.  Some don’t understand the concept of keeping their mouth shut.

When the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus the woman caught in adultery, they wanted him to comment on Moses’ punishment (John 8:2-5).  It was a simple request.  “What do you say?”  He would not honor their request!   He refused to give his opinion.  He would not criticize the woman’s actions!  On another occasion, when arrested and brought before Pilate, he said very little.  What a wonderful opportunity to defend himself and put the Jewish hypocrites in their place!  He didn’t.  Peter informs us that Jesus left us “an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).  It is hard to keep the mouth shut!

“Go an entire day without criticizing anyone.”  Does that mean once that twenty-four-hour period is over, we may criticize to our heart’s content?  Doesn’t the statement say, “Go an entire day.”  It says nothing about the day before, nor the day after!  If someone murdered my child, does it mean I can’t open my mouth to identify the murderer?  If you say that is not the meaning of the statement, who made you our standard for understanding the correct meaning?  If someone states that his interpretation is just “common sense,” is he the standard for what is “common sense”?  If someone argues, “My common sense is recognized as the common sense held by the majority.”  Is the majority always correct?  What about the majority that yelled, “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:13-14)?

Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 (KJV).  How many parents have beaten themselves up because a child decided to live upon the wrong path?  Doesn’t every individual have free will?  May a person decide he doesn’t want to follow his training?  Didn’t David commit fornication with Uriah’s wife?  Didn’t he have Uriah put in harm’s way?  Didn’t he attempt to cover up his sin and hope he had gotten away with it?  Was that because his parents did not train him correctly?  Did Nathan violate the saying, “Go an entire day without criticizing anyone,” by confronting David on THAT day?  What if Nathan decided to continue to follow that statement?  Solomon wrote the “training” verse.  Why did he have 300 wives and 500 concubines?  Was Solomon’s choice to have 800 women the fault of his parents?  We all make mistakes.  We all make wrong choices.  Are our choices the fault of our parents?  Whose fault was it that Adam and Eve sinned? Was God’s training inferior to Satan’s deception?

There is a proper meaning in both statements.  Neither were written to make fools of us.  Neither requires parents or others to use self-infliction.   Perhaps we all need to hear Jesus reply to that woman, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Hmm.  “Go and sin no more.”  Does that mean, “Strive for excellence, not perfection?”  Just another saying.  But, what does it really mean?

SAYINGS?

Monday, November 27, 2017

I often come across sayings that I use on Facebook.  Sometimes a statement may be misunderstood by someone learning English.  Some have a “hook” which must be recognized before the statement is appreciated.  Some may be in the same category as Proverbs 22:6, misunderstood and misapplied.  Where would you classify the following: “Go an entire day without criticizing anyone”?  Have you ever noticed how hard it is to keep your mouth shut?

The comedian, Ken Davis, in his DVD “Under the Influence,” mentions an incident where he was asked something, and he should have kept his mouth shut, but didn’t.  His reason for giving the incorrect statement was, “He asked!”  Some people don’t have to be asked!  It doesn’t matter whether they know all the facts or not, right or wrong, they have the solution.  Some don’t understand the concept of keeping their mouth shut.

When the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus the woman caught in adultery, they wanted him to comment on Moses’ punishment (John 8:2-5).  It was a simple request.  “What do you say?”  He would not honor their request!   He refused to give his opinion.  He would not criticize the woman’s actions!  On another occasion, when arrested and brought before Pilate, he said very little.  What a wonderful opportunity to defend himself and put the Jewish hypocrites in their place!  He didn’t.  Peter informs us that Jesus left us “an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).  It is hard to keep the mouth shut!

Go an entire day without criticizing anyone.”  Does that mean once that twenty-four-hour period is over, we may criticize to our heart’s content?  Doesn’t the statement say, “Go an entire day.”  It says nothing about the day before, nor the day after!  If someone murdered my child, does it mean I can’t open my mouth to identify the murderer?  If you say that is not the meaning of the statement, who made you our standard for understanding the correct meaning?  If someone states that his interpretation is just “common sense,” is he the standard for what is “common sense”?  If someone argues, “My common sense is recognized as the common sense held by the majority.”  Is the majority always correct?  What about the majority that yelled, “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:13-14)?

Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 (KJV).  How many parents have beaten themselves up because a child decided to live upon the wrong path?  Doesn’t every individual have free will?  May a person decide he doesn’t want to follow his training?  Didn’t David commit fornication with Uriah’s wife?  Didn’t he have Uriah put in harm’s way?  Didn’t he attempt to cover up his sin and hope he had gotten away with it?  Was that because his parents did not train him correctly?  Did Nathan violate the saying, “Go an entire day without criticizing anyone,” by confronting David on THAT day?  What if Nathan decided to continue to follow that statement?  Solomon wrote the “training” verse.  Why did he have 300 wives and 500 concubines?  Was Solomon’s choice to have 800 women the fault of his parents?  We all make mistakes.  We all make wrong choices.  Are our choices the fault of our parents?  Whose fault was it that Adam and Eve sinned? Was God’s training inferior to Satan’s deception?

There is a proper meaning in both statements.  Neither were written to make fools of us.  Neither requires parents or others to use self-infliction.   Perhaps we all need to hear Jesus reply to that woman, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Hmm.  “Go and sin no more.”  Does that mean, “Strive for excellence, not perfection?”  Just another saying.  But, what does it really mean?

WHAT IS TRUTH?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

When Jesus was before Pilate, Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”  Pilate’s reply was, “What is truth?”  John 18:38 (NKJV).  The failure in recognizing truth goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  Satan didn’t inform Eve, “I am the devil and when I open my mouth it is to deceive you with lies.”  He began with a question to put doubt in Eve’s mind.  He wanted Eve to question God’s truth and accept his lies.  She and Adam allowed their foundation to be displaced with a sandy Rock of Gibraltar.

One of the biggest lies that Satan has deceived people with is, “We have the truth and our truth cannot be wrong!”  It is true that truth cannot be wrong.  The fault lies in folks accepting as truth something built upon a false premise!

Have you ever heard someone tell a friend, “Don’t accept something because your preacher says it, accept it because the Bible teaches it”?  That sounds exceptional when rolling off our tongue.  But what if it comes from someone who is addressing “their” truth?  Where did we get the things we believe?  Did we go to the Bible and get it without any help from someone else?  Did it come from the pulpit?  You see, we can be spoon fed by our preachers and teachers just like our religious friends are with theirs.  They believe their teaching comes from the Bible just as much as we believe our faith comes from that source!  They are just as convinced as we are.  To believe they are wrong because our preachers are always right, is to build our faith upon the wrong standard!  Even Corinth had inspired prophets, yet accepted denominationalism! (1 Corinthians 12:28-29; 1:10-13)!

To determine that one is right because he is honest and sincere, while charging that those who disagree are not, is to wallow in Satan’s logic.  He uses pride to establish such presumptions.  What one believes may be constructed upon an assumption, whose premise only appears valid.  Time and repetition from honored and respected ministers hides its origin and disguises it as truth!  Did those in Corinth who believed one was not resurrected think they were accepting error or truth?  Were they honest and sincere in that belief?

Over forty years ago, preachers advanced the argument that Jesus is never referred to in the Greek neuter gender.  Because our opponents were not prepared for our argument, it was not answered.  So, the teaching was passed on and accepted by future debaters, who continued presenting it as biblical truth.  Since it was not answered, it had to be true.  If it was a false argument, notable preachers in the past would not have advanced it.  Since they did, it was true!  Isn’t that “Spoon Feeding”?

Assumptions often have a habit of failing!  In 1974 a United Pentecostal preacher did his homework and pointed out that Jesus was referred to in the neuter gender in 1 John 1.  William Woodson, a teacher at Freed-Hardeman College, validated his disclosure as true.  That meant our argument was and had always been false!  We were honest and sincere men advancing a false argument!  Preachers were passing it on to other preachers.  Members were taught and accepting it as contending “for the faith” (Jude 1:3)!  Some continued to use it as if it was the truth.  Why?  Either they had not discovered that it is a lie, or their homework is faulty, or they can’t give it up as a lie, so they cling to it as if it is the truth!  Truth does not need to be supported with a lie.  Some continue to follow the devil’s leading, “We have the truth and our truth cannot be wrong!”  No matter how honest and sincere we were, we were guilty of teaching a lie!  “What is truth?”  It wasn’t what we were upholding on that point.

We were so convinced that we were right on that point, that when the United Pentecostal preacher introduced his rebuttal, we had no idea what he was talking about.  Since he did not pursue his point, that failure saved our “skin.”  Imagine our surprise the next morning when William Woodson informed us that the UPC preacher was correct?

The apostle Peter stated, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God(1 Peter 4:11).  Peter’s instruction is still truth today!  Spoon feeding is necessary, only if we are babes in Christ! (1 Peter 2:2).  Otherwise, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth(2 Timothy 2:15).

Just because a preacher is held in high esteem isn’t a guarantee that he is always right.  How many inspired teachers did Corinth have?  Paul, an inspired apostle, argued sharply with Barnabas because he didn’t think Mark was worth a second chance.  Was he right (Acts 15:36-40; 2 Timothy 4:11)?  Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians is applicable to us all.  “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall(1 Corinthians 10:12)!

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